Sunday, April 3, 2011

Some thoughts from opening weekend

Thoughts on the AL:

Either the Royals are better than billed, or the Angels are a good bit worse. Alex Gordon hooked a game winning home run by a foot or two on Opening Day, Chris Getz’ RBI single capped a two run 8th to put the Royals ahead for good on Friday, Kila Kai’aihue hit a walkoff on Saturday to break a 1-1 tie, and Matt Treanor hit a three run home run win it in the 12th inning Sunday afternoon. In all of these games, the bullpen pitched well, particularly Tim Collins and Joakim Soria, who combined for 7 scoreless innings in the series.

A-Rod and Mark Teixeira are having a great start to bounceback seasons. A-Rod went 3/5 in his first two games, with all of his hits going for extra bases (2 2B, 1 HR) and has reached base in 6 of his 8 plate appearances. Teixeira has hit three run home runs in back to back games, leading to a pair of victories. Last season it took Teixeira until April 18th to get his 6th RBI and until April 22nd to get his second home run. He also added a solo home run in the Yankees loss to the Tigers on Sunday. Both A-Rod and Teixeira were either ineffective or injured for most of the early part of the season last year. With a strong April from Teixeira and being another year removed from hip surgery for A-Rod, the Yankees offense could be even better this year. They may need it, particularly if Hughes doesn't find his lost effectiveness or velocity.

As for the Red Sox, it was certainly an ugly weekend, but there are some bright spots. Ellsbury seems like he’s finally fully healthy. At the plate he’s looked solid – working the count well, hitting for a bit of power, and stealing a base in the opener. He also made a diving attempt on a line drive to the warning track on Saturday. While he didn’t come up with the ball, it is great to see him go full bore for a ball and not have to worry about his rib injury.

David Ortiz is also off to a hot start, having already hit two home runs, including one off of lefty reliever Darren Oliver. It took until May 1st for Ortiz to hit his second home run of 2010.

Adrian Gonzalez has looked at home in a Red Sox uniform, displaying a great approach and hitting the ball to all fields. He’s 5/13 so far, and even chipped in with a stolen base. I wouldn’t count on too many more, this was Gonzalez’ second career stolen base and fourth career attempt.

Saltalamacchia is really big. At 6’4” he dwarfs most other catchers and is border line “too big” for the position, at least according to conventional wisdom. In the last couple of years Joe Mauer and Matt Wieters, who are both 6’5” have been able to handle the wear and tear of the position while playing good defense, so that label may fade away, much as it did at shortstop after the success of Cal Ripken.

Papelbon looked ok in the eighth inning on Sunday. He struck out the side, but also allowed a couple hits and an intentional BB. All three strikeouts occurred after the bases were loaded, so it was nice to see Papelbon bear down and get the tough outs without giving up any more runs.

Pitching was the weak spot in all three games. The strong finish and impressive spring for John Lackey doesn’t seem to have carried over to the regular season. Lackey was destroyed by the Rangers, giving up 9 runs, not getting out of the fourth. Lackey gave up three doubles, two triples, and two home runs, the second of which was a grand slam by Adrian Beltre, and ended Lackey’s night. To add insult to injury, all six runs in the 4th were scored with two outs. There wasn't a single cheap hit in the bunch, with line drive after line drive either finding the gaps or the outfield seats.

Lackey wasn't alone, in that regard though. The Red Sox pitchers are having trouble keeping the ball in the park. They gave up three HR in the first game, four in the second, and four in the third. That puts them on pace for a less than impressive 594 for the season, after giving up 152 all of last season. Obviously that pace is completely unsustainable, but it is a worrisome trend. Thanks to this barrage, Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler became the first teammates to both hit homeruns in three consecutive games and Kinsler became the first player to hit lead off home runs in the first two games of the season.

It was an ugly way to open the season, with the Red Sox getting swept in a 3 game series for the first time since 1996. Hopefully they’ll turn things around soon; after a three game series in Cleveland the Red Sox have back to back series against the Yankees and Rays.


  1. One thing that I noticed was Saltalamacchia's distinctive catching stance, with his right leg kicked way out and basically sitting on the ground. It reminds me of someone, but I can't quite place it.

    I agree that Ellsbury looked very good- he was working the count and pulling the ball. I didn't see the latest game, though, when he went 0-3.

    On a non Red Sox note, I ended up watching parts of three of the four Royals-Angels games, and from what I saw, the main difference in the series was that Scott Kazmir and the Angels bullpen were really, really, REALLY bad, especially compared to KC. Aaron Crow looked good as a reliever, Soria was his usual excellent self, and Tim Collins was a ton of fun to watch. I watched all of Collins' 3IP in the last game, and he was throwing back door curveballs, challenging hitters inside with his fastball, and making them look foolish when he threw his change-up. All coming from a 5' 7" frame. It was pretty impressive.

  2. Tim Collins is a fascinating player. Obviously a lot of teams have big questions about him considering he went through three organizations last year, but he had a hell of game last night. Also, according to Rob Neyer, Collins is closer to 5'5". He makes "Tiny Tim" Lincecum look like a giant.

  3. Tony Pena! He would kick out his leg, although it wasn't quite the same as Salty's stance.